If the FDA rules in favor of allowing iQOS to be marketed as a lower-risk alternative, the implications for the tobacco industry would be enormous. It would mark the first time the FDA has allowed a tobacco product to market itself as reduced harm, and would set the standard for what’s required of MRTP applications moving forward.

A positive decision would also likely incentivize Altria and other tobacco companies to continue to invest in reduced-harm products by demonstrating that there is a pathway to market. It’s something Altria is already betting heavily on: During its November investor call, the company cited plans to file MRTPs for Copenhagen Snuff and MarkTen e-cigs in 2018.

“They’re going to be very active in this reduced-risk space in the next couple years,” Modi said of Altria.